Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ouzo Mezedes, Part I

For my Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Greek Ouzo Tasting ... in New York, I wanted to "abide" by the traditional way of serving ouzo: alongside an array of mezedes to help ease down the strong aperitif. Htapodokeftedes (octopus croquettes) are a delicacy on the island of Kalymnos, from which my family hails. I've enjoyed htapodokeftedes on the island a number of times but never anywhere else. This was my first time making them at home, but definitely not my last ... these flavorful mezedes were much easier than they seem and a hit with our guests.

I also wanted to incorporate a version of a traditional Kalymnian salad called mirmizeli that combines bread rusks moistened with olive oil and tossed with fresh sliced tomato, crumbled goat cheese and thrimbi (similar to dried savory). As such, I made a more ouzo-friendly meze using crostini, tomato and goat cheese. There were also some savory olive oil biscotti sprinkled with black pepper and grated parmesan as well as a creamy taramosalata, great starters for a night of ouzo.

Kali Orexi ... and be sure to stay tuned for the next installment of recipes from our ouzo party!

Htapodokeftedes (Octopus Croquettes)
Makes about 25 to 30

3.5 to 4 lbs. octopus (I used about 7 smaller octopus), cleaned
3 scallions, 1 scallion left whole and 2 finely chopped
2 sprigs tarragon
Small bunch parsley, 2 sprigs left whole, the rest finely chopped
10 to 12 whole black peppercorns
1 loaf of stale bread, crusts removed
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
2 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Bread crumbs as needed
1 cup all-purpose flour for dredging
Olive oil for frying

Place the cleaned octopus in a stock pot, cover with water, add the tarragon, 1 scallion, a couple sprigs of parsley and the peppercorns. If using smaller octopus they should turn out much more tender than a larger octopus, however, add a cork to the stockpot as well for good measure. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove octopus from the pot and cool slightly.

Coarsely chop the octopus and place in a food processor. Pulse until the octopus is finely chopped. Remove the octopus to a large bowl. Cut the stale bread into large chunks, moisten with some water and squeeze with your hands to remove any excess liquid. Add it to the octopus along with the onions, garlic, remaining parsley, scallions, oregano and eggs. Mix well. Add some breadcrumbs until the mixture becomes firm enough to later be rolled into balls. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to four.

Heat about an inch of olive oil in a dutch oven until quite hot. Shape the octopus mixture into bite-size balls and roll lightly in the flour. Fry the octopus croquettes a few at a time, turning once, until evenly browned (a few minutes is all they need). Serve warm with wedges of lemon.

(Carp Roe Dip)

2 large potatoes, peeled and boiled
1 small onion, halved
3 heaping tablespoons carp roe
Juice of 1 lemon
Olive oil

Combine the potatoes, onion, carp roe and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until pureed. With the motor running, begin adding the olive oil until desired consistency is achieved.

Olive Oil and Parmesan Biscotti
(Adapted from a recipe on

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, ground
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
1/3 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, 3/4 cup cheese and a little over half the black pepper in a large bowl. Blend in oil and butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the eggs, add the milk and continue stirring until a soft dough forms.

Halve the dough and using well-floured hands, form each piece into a log (about 12 inches long and 2 inches wide) and place on un-greased cookie sheets.

Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/4 cup cheese and the ground pepper. Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until the logs are pale golden and firm, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool about 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Carefully transfer logs to a cutting board and with a serrated knife cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange slices, cut sides down, in 1 layer on baking sheets. Bake, turning over once, until golden and crisp, 35 to 45 minutes total. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to one week.

Crostini with Tomato and Goat Cheese

4 vine ripe tomatoes, sliced thin
Small log goat cheese, cut into 16 slices
16 crostini or wheat rusks
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Drizzle the crostini with a little olive oil. Top the crostini with the sliced goat cheese and then layer with the tomato slices. Drizzle a little more olive oil over each tomato-topped crostini and season with salt and pepper.


Peter G said...

MAria, the mezedes look fantastic. Sipping ouzo and eating these sounds just like my thing! I love the octopus croquettes too!

Ben said...

I would move to Greece just for the food (and the weather, people, natural beauty, culture, history, LOL) Great job, this one goes to my ever growing list of Greek recipes to try :)

Mediterranean kiwi said...

i can totally relate to the crostini with tomato and goat's cheese - so reminiscent of the dakos we eat in greece

(thanks awfully for the link to the greek bourdain episode - some people have an infatuation with cultures that they can never be a part of, which doesnt surprise me why bourdain cannot have a much more positive outlook on things greek; it's just another european culture to him, and he's gone all in for asian stuff from what i understand)

Ivy said...

Maria everything looks delicious and a few recipes very new to me. I've never had htapokeftedes before.

giz said...

You must have been reading my mind. My most recent absolute obsession is Taramosolata. Now I'm on the hunt for carp roe. Thanks for posting the recipe - so much easier than I thought.

Peter M said...

Maria, you've demystified Xtapokeftedes for me. I've only eaten them, never made them and with you, a Kalimniotissa as the authority...I will make yours. Thank you!

Ali said...

Oh wow. What a treat! Everything in this spread looks fabulous. That parmesan biscotti is calling my name!

alexandra's kitchen

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Wow, Maria, these all look amazing...I need to have something like this soon - it is so summery!

Johanna said...

I love the htapodokeftedes maria. In general mezedes need so much work though...